Indiana’s religious freedom law has inspired so much backlash and outrage that Fox News anchor Bret Baier debunked his own network’s propaganda and misinformation.
ERIC SHAWN: You know, the law was intended to protect personal religious liberties against government overreach and intrusion. So what happened?
BAIER: Well, Indiana’s law is written a little differently. It is more broad. It is different than the federal law that it’s close to, but different than, and also different than 19 other states and how the law is written. In specific terms, Indiana’s law deals with a person who can claim religious persecution but that includes corporations, for-profit entities and it could also be used as a defense in a civil suit that does not involve the government. That is broader than the other laws. This is where it’s a little different in Indiana’s case. You saw governor Mike Pence try to defend the law and say it’s just like the 1993 federal law where it’s just like 19 other states, but as you look in the fine print, it’s not really, and it may be something that Indiana deals with in specifics to line up with the others.
SHAWN: Obviously, it had good intentions. What do you think happened to make it kind of go off the rails this way?
BAIER: Well, how it was structured, Eric. And I think that, you know, there may be good intentions behind it but how it’s being interpreted is being a little bit more forward leaning than any other Religious Freedom Restoration Act on the books. What this does politically, obviously Mike Pence has been talked about as a governor thinking about a 2016 run. We don’t know if he’s going to do it or not. But that interview with Stephanopoulos over the weekend was obviously not a great back and forth in defense of this law that likely is going to have to be at least tweaked, if not changed.
The issue is, as Baier pointed out, the Indiana law is not the same as the 1993 federal law. Indiana has given for profit businesses the Citizens United/Hobby Lobby treatment by making them people. The fact that a high profile personality like Baier is distancing himself from the Indiana law is indicative of what a self-created disaster the Indiana situation is turning into for Republicans.
If Indiana doesn’t repeal the law, it will become an issue for every 2016 Republican presidential candidate. The issue will go national, and it will have an impact on the 2016 election. Pence’s continued support for the law is straight out of the want to be the Republican nominee playbook. Scott Walker is running on busting unions in Wisconsin. Ted Cruz is running on shutting down the government over the Affordable Care Act. Gov. Pence has long been a rumored potential 2016 candidate, and it looks like he is using the ‘religious freedom’ bill as a platform for a potential campaign.
Pence’s interview on ABC’s This Week was a slow motion train wreck. The governor refused or dodged the most basic questions about the law. Pence sounded like a man who was trying to build a national brand on the basis of discrimination, but the backlash to his actions has been so severe that Pence’s presidential dreams have the capacity to cause serious damage to the Hoosier State.